Café Gratitude is a restaurant chain around the Bay Area. On the surface, it is just another place to buy over-priced food mixed with a new-age hippy philosophy, thus initially I intended this review to be a thinly veiled pretext for my rant against the fanatical lefty-ism around here. But all is not as it seemed…
The San Francisco Bay Area in general and Berkeley in particular is awash with ‘eco-friendly’, ‘paper bag’, ‘fair-trade’, and ‘organic’ dining and retail opportunities. These shops and restaurants have appeared in response to the concern of many about environmental issues and unethical trading practices.
Whilst I think that concern is justified, a trend has taken hold whereby a business need only align their marketing material with these McNuggets of the new-age philosophy in order to appeal to the discerning and conscientious customer. I have a problem with that because often their behaviours don’t stand up to further interrogation and logic. Take for instance this claim:
We use non bleached 100% cotton cloths for napkins that, after used, are sent to become rags in the auto industry. This creates an additional life for that product and eliminating the use of harmful chemicals like bleach for laundering.
The suggestion that it is better to replace the napkin than wash it makes me want to vomit. And don’t even get me started on the benefits of organic food, or the fact that the food is prepared “with love”, but not necessarily heat.
The menu has a name for each dish, examples include “I am honoring” and “what are you grateful for”. When our waiter came to take the order, she asked us to discuss “what we have done for the planet recently” while we were eating.
“What have you done for the planet recently?” I responded.
“I make the world a happier place with my jokes and personality” (or something like that) she said.
Although they let you eat at your own pace, when it comes to the new-age rhetoric, they ram it down your throat.
Then I found this article (the East Bay Express is the local rag), about the Cafe Gratitude owners forcing staff to attend (and pay half the $500 registration fee for) Landmark Forums‘ educational classes (poor man’s Scientology). Of course it is not all bad, Café Gratitude manager Erika has attended Landmark’s advanced courses and now has “the freedom to create”… WTF?
So, who would have thought that Café Gratitude was a hot-bed of cultish behaviour with discriminatory hiring practices? I suppose the moral of the story is that you should apply the same filter to the claims made by Michelle’s Organic Free Range Holistic Deli as you do Monsanto or Microsoft. If you don’t care, fine. But if you do care, don’t take any of their claims at face value. They are all just dudes trying to sell stuff.